Facebook has removed multiple pages, groups and accounts originating from Thailand, Russia, Ukraine and Honduras for being involved in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” on the platform and Instagram. The company purged these accounts following an internal investigation along with help from local security forces in these areas in certain cases.

Divisive posts on Thai politics

It removed 12 Facebook accounts and 10 Facebook pages originating in Thailand, which focused Thailand and the US. It said that about 38,000 people followed at least one or more of these pages. In its investigation, Facebook found that some of the activity on these pages was linked to a Thailand based person associated New Eastern Outlook – a Russian government-funded journal based in Moscow. It is worth noting that according to a report, New Eastern Outlook had a total of 19,432 likes an average of 49.29 likes per post. It removed these accounts because:

  • People behind this small network used fake accounts to create fictitious personas and run pages.
  • These pages shared potentially divisive posts on Thai politics, geopolitical issues like US-China relations, protests in Hong Kong, and criticism of democracy activists in Thailand.

New Eastern Outlook

DFRLab accessed New Eastern Outlook’s Facebook before it got taken down, and found that it had three managers based in Thailand, and one each in Russia and Greece. It found out from New Eastern Outlook’s about section that the page tried presenting itself as a neutral and unbiased news outlet, however, the content present on the page told an entirely different story:

  • Most of the page’s posts linked to stories on its external website, Journal-neo.org, where biased articles on topics ranging from geopolitics, economics, and social issues were posted. We visited the website, and found an article, authored by one Vladimir Platov, that suggests that the US never sent a man on the moon.
  • A post reviling American journalist Michael Weiss received the maximum engagement – more than 3,200 likes but just one comment and eight shares. The post targeted Weiss for his extensive work on Russian information warfare.
  • In another post, the website accused the United States of political interference with regard to developing China-Thailand relations.

These pages shared content like this:

Fake Russian accounts found to be criticising Ukrainian govt

Similarly, it removed 18 Facebook accounts, 9 pages, and 3 groups originating in Russia, ahead of elections in Ukraine. About 80,000 people followed at least one or more of these pages. These pages posted content related to the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, and criticised the Ukrainian government. It removed these accounts because:

  • People behind this activity created fictitious personas, and impersonated deceased Ukrainian journalists.
  • Fake accounts were being used to increase the popularity of their content, deceive people about their location, and to drive people to off-platform websites.

DFRLab said that four pages focused on issues like promoting conspiracy theories about the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution and exploiting religious tensions at the heart of the 2018 Moscow-Constantinople Schism within the Eastern Orthodox Church.

These pages shared content like this:

Caption: “When it seems that there is no bottom. Ukrainian TV anchor hosted a show dressed up as Hitler“

Accounts originating in Ukraine impersonated military members

83 accounts, 2 pages and 29 groups and 5 Instagram accounts originating from the Luhansk region in Ukraine and Russia were removed ahead of elections in Ukraine. These groups and pages shared content like the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian public figures and politics. It removed these accounts because:

  • Fake accounts were being used to impersonate military members in Ukraine and to manage groups which posed as authentic military communities.
  • Certain groups – which shifted focus from one political side to another over time – were disseminating content about Ukraine and the Luhansk region.

These pages shared content like this:

Caption: “…algorithm and peculiarities of providing medical assistance to Ukrainian military. In the end of the visit representatives of Lithuanian and Ukrainian sides discussed questions of joint interest and expressed opinions on particular aspects of developing the sphere of collaboration even further.”

Fake profiles were trying to glorify the Honduran President

Honduras saw the biggest purge of all other places as Facebook removed 181 accounts and 1,488 Facebook pages. About 120,000 people followed at least one or more of these pages. More so problematically, Facebook found that a few people running these pages were also managing social media for Honduras’ government. It removed these accounts because:

  • Individuals were using fake accounts, with false names and stock images to comment in support of the current President of Honduras.